prompt from secret_keep: what can make a social interaction easier for you? Harder for you? (ideally, answer for both 1 on 1 and group interaction.)
One on one:
What makes this easier for me is if the person has areas in common with me in values and passions so that we have enough to talk about, and if they are good at asking interesting questions and/or taking at least 45% of the responsibility for coming up with topics and branches. What makes it harder is when we have clashing values that make me not even want to be near the person, or when they have few things they are passionate about, or when they have little experience with the passions we have in common, or if they do not try to give back in equal portion. I like conversations to go like this:
A: *asks interesting question*
B: *answers thoroughly, sharing whatever is relevant beyond the scope of the direct question. Asks related interesting question*
A: *answers thoroughly, sharing whatever is relevant beyond the scope of the direct question. Makes broad statement.*
B: *asks a specific question that helps define broad statement*
These patterns repeated and blended up make for a relaxing, nourishing conversation. Asking thoughtfully (and not too many questions that I have answered a million times like "where did you grow up"), sharing openly (which means including more than requested, answering the spirit of the question), and taking initiative are all qualities I need to not feel like it is mostly a drain. I am an outgoing person, but I have social anxiety, so while I might enjoy initiating/guiding conversation somewhat, that all takes work and I can't relax if the other person is just not going to talk when I don't guide the conversation. Sitting in silence with someone is not fun for me unless we're very very intimate.
In large groups:
What makes this easier for me is if I know everyone or if I have an outgoing ambassador friend who will introduce me to people or be the one to butt in to conversations and then include me. It's also easier if there is a meaningful shared activity like crafting or a discussion topic or playing get-to-know-you games. And it is easier if I go WITH someone, so that the transition from in my house to out is not in question. I don't do transitions in/out of my house well, so it takes a lot of spoons just to do that part. If someone picks me up, that makes social interaction SO MUCH EASIER, like a WORLD easier, but people don't do that. It eases the transition on both ends, and it removes any sense of deadline stress since it's not my responsibility any more. It also makes me feel free to drink (if I am driving myself I won't drink even a little unless I'm spending the night); drinking makes it easier to interact with people because I stop judging my words in five different ways before letting them out of my mouth. I also find it easier when I am wearing an outfit that feels comfortable and 'me' and wearing expressive makeup, because I feel like that helps to attract the right sort and scare off the others.
What makes it harder is when I don't know anyone, don't have an ambassador, don't have a meaningful activity or focus, have to drive myself alone, am stressed about money, am stressed about my car breaking, or have a deadline (that sets off mild panic as an ADD coping mechanism). Having to drive someone else makes it both easier and harder. It's more stressful, but it stresses me to GO rather than to stay. It's also much harder if it is an event I have to spend money on, even if I have the money, because I feel bad about spending money regardless of why. That might change when I have a job that pays me a living wage (which I have never had).
In small groups:
What makes these easier is the same as in large groups, but there is one thing that make it harder in small groups that doesn't matter in large ones. If the group is 7 people or fewer and there is anyone who seems ill-at-ease or like they're feeling excluded, I feel responsible for connecting with them and helping them to be connected, and I can't relax unless/until they seem to feel better. I'd love to NOT do this but so far I haven't been able to resist the impulse to try to help. The smaller the group, the more intensely I feel the need to do this. Which is one of the reasons why I want to cancel crafty parties if fewer than four people are attending and none of those people are outgoing ambassador types -- I am relaxed in larger groups in a way I cannot relax in small groups.